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Breathing Problems: Using a Nebulizer


A nebulizer is a tool that delivers liquid medicine as a fine mist. You breathe in the medicine through a mouthpiece or face mask. This sends the medicine directly to your airways and lungs. You breathe in the medicine for a few minutes.

Why is a nebulizer used?

A nebulizer may be used to treat respiratory problems. These include asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). If you have asthma, it can be used with controller medicines or with quick-relief medicine during an attack or flare-up.

A nebulizer can make inhaling medicines easier. It may be very helpful if it is hard for you to breathe or use your inhalers.

How to use a nebulizer

Here are the steps for using a tabletop nebulizer:

  1. Set up the air compressor.

    Make sure that it is steady and will not tip, and then plug it in.

  2. Put the correct amount of medicine in the nebulizer cup.
  3. Connect the cup to the mouthpiece or the mask.
  4. Attach one end of the tubing to the nebulizer cup and the other end to the compressor.
  5. Turn on the compressor. Make sure that a mist is coming out of the mouthpiece or mask.
  6. Take deep, slow breaths through the mouthpiece or mask.

    Hold each breath for about 2 seconds.

  7. Keep breathing until the medicine is gone from the cup.

    There will be no more mist coming out. This may take about 10 minutes.

  8. After each use, clean the mouthpiece or face mask.

    Use warm, soapy water. Let it air dry. After every few uses, follow the product directions to disinfect the parts.


Current as of: August 6, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.